For the second year in a row, Great Britain’s Scott Brash took the win in the Grand Prix at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament CSIO5*. On Sunday, September 11, Brash and Ursula XII were the winners of the $3 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, in a thrilling jump-off against USA’s McLain Ward and HH Azur. Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca and Ensor de Litrange XII finished third.
Brash also won the $1.5 Million CP International, presented by Rolex, in 2015, along with taking the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping for the first time in history. The prize money was even bigger this year, initially listed as $2 million, and then jumping up to $3 million in an additional increase made by CP just prior to the event. For his win alone, Brash took home a check of $1 million.
Leopoldo Palacios (VEN) set difficult tracks for Sunday’s competition, held over two rounds. A challenging oxer-oxer-vertical triple combination set next to the in-gate with double liverpools was responsible for many faults in the first round. Only four entries were able to clear the first round course without fault.
The top twelve entries in the first round were then invited to return for round two in reverse order of penalties. The twelve that returned included the four clear rounds, as well as seven competitors carrying four faults, and one entry on five faults.
The four best entries from round one were able to maintain their positions on top of the leaderboard after the second round. Scott Brash and McLain Ward each jumped clear in round two to move on to a third round for an exciting head-to-head jump-off. Brash was first to go on the short course with Ursula XII and set the challenge with a clear round in 41.19 seconds. Ward followed with HH Azur, but dropped one rail to solidify a second place finish in a time of 43.11 seconds.
Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca just missed out on the jump-off with a single time fault in round two, leaving the rider in third place overall with Stephex Stable’s Ensor de Litrange LXII. Kent Farrington (USA) was clear in round one and dropped one rail in round two to finish with four faults. Kevin Staut (FRA) also finished on four faults in total with a rail in round one and a clear in round two. Their tie was broken by first round times, leaving Farrington and Amalaya Investment’s Voyeur in fourth place, and Staut aboard For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC in fifth place.
One of the biggest Grand Prix in the sport, the CP International is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which was won for the first time by Brash on a historic occasion in 2015. Brash and Hello Sanctos topped three consecutive grand prix competitions in Geneva, Aachen, and then Calgary to earn the title. Though he was not in contention for the Grand Slam this year - he finished a close second in the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen with Ursula XII in July - winning the CP International for the second year in a row was just as exciting for Brash.
“It is a little different, but just as good actually,” Brash stated. “I am actually so happy for my horse Ursula because it has been a long road with her. She has always been an unbelievable horse, but probably never had the recognition she deserves. She was the number one horse in the world, but never actually won a grand prix (before today). She was second so many times in so many big grand prixs, but never actually won one, so she picked a good one to win. She went through two years of injuries, and to finally get her back to the top end of this sport and then win the biggest grand prix in the world, I am absolutely over the moon, for the horse especially.”
Though several riders have won the CP International Grand Prix on more than one occasion, only Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa has previously achieved the feat of winning the competition in back-to-back years. He took the title in 2000 and 2001 aboard Gandini Lianos. Brash’s wins were with two different horses, but he had great confidence in Ursula this year, just as he had in Hello Sanctos in 2015.
Ursula XII, a 15-year-old Scottish Sport Horse mare (Ahorn x Papageno) owned by Lady P Harris and Lady P Kirkham, previously showed at Spruce Meadows with Great Britain’s Tina Fletcher in 2012 and jumped well during that time. “I know her very well and I was always quite confident that she would be good in this ring, but never had the opportunity to bring her here,” Brash detailed. “I was just happy to get her here in good form to give us a chance at the grand prix, and she sure delivered today.”
With the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping on the line last year, Brash had a lot of extra pressure on his shoulders to do well. This year was different, but the jump-off with recent Rio Olympic team silver medalists McLain Ward and HH Azur presented a different kind of pressure.
“I think, to be fair, there was more pressure last year,” Brash admitted. “I do not think I was just expected to win the grand prix this year. I think all eyes were on Sanctos last year. He was in great form – he had won in Geneva and Aachen - and everyone was talking about it and the lead up to it. This year has been a lot different, but the pressure of the competition is still difficult. McLain and Azur are a fantastic combination, so I knew it was not over until he went. The pressure was on until the last moment."
“I am very confident in her because I know what a wonderful horse she is, but it was a strong field out there and when you have the likes of McLain and Azur coming behind you, you feel like you are at a bit of a disadvantage,” he continued. “Going out first in the jump-off actually probably worked in my favor this time. I knew I had to keep the poles up, but I knew I also had to do more than that to try to beat McLain, so I took a few risks and a few chances and she jumped amazing.”
Though Ward would have liked to win, his second place prize of $600,000 was still bigger than most competitions around the world, and he was very pleased with HH Azur on Sunday. The 10-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui) owned by Double H Farm and Francois Mathy has achieved a lot at a young age and only continues to improve.
“She is still a young horse and still learning a little bit to jump-off against the clock and to jump three rounds,” Ward noted. “That gets better with maturity, so I do think that as amazing as she is, the future is even brighter for her."
“If you are going to be second to anybody, being second to Scott is a good choice,” Ward added. “He is brilliant and has probably been the most on-form rider over the last several years. I am not disappointed. The horse was spectacular. That was the only fence she touched all day; I thought she jumped in great form.”
Though the course was tough for many competitors, the best horses and riders rose to the top on Sunday, and Leopoldo Palacios was happy with the final result. With the biggest payday in show jumping at stake, the competition is meant to be challenging and has only seen three jump-offs in the 40-year history of the event.
Remarking on his outcome, Palacios stated, “In reality, it is not my first time that I have used this triple combination, with the same material, in the same position. I am not very happy that there were so many problems in that combination; that was not what I expected, but at the end I think I had a very good grand prix. I want to congratulate the winners. I think the competition today was beautiful except for the problem on the liverpools. I am happy that we had a jump-off today. I have a very tough second round, and the time allowed was short, as Lorenzo can tell you. Scott and McLain did fantastic, and they deserved to have a jump-off.”
As Palacios mentioned, Lorenzo de Luca and Ensor de Litrange XII finished third with just the one time fault in round two, but the rider was happy with his result. This was de Luca’s first trip to Spruce Meadows, and he also won a competition earlier in the week aboard Limestone Grey.
“I had a great week, so I can’t complain,” de Luca stated. “When you come to Spruce Meadows, like everyone told me and as I have watched, it should be hard. You find double ditches here just like you find in Aachen. The same combination was used in Aachen last year at the European Championships. You need to have a good horse.”
De Luca continued, “This show is amazing, and my horses jumped great. This is my first time here, and if I can come again next year, for sure I will come. I think this is the best show ever. It is proper sport, big classes, and good jump-offs. It is fantastic to be here."
Concluding the day’s competition, Brash also remarked on the difficulty of the event, noting that the course builder set an appropriately demanding track. “When we come to Spruce Meadows, we know what we are in for,” Brash stated. “It is the richest grand prix in the world, and it should be difficult. We know that those double of ditches are going to be in there. You do still need a special horse to be able to jump that combination. It is all very hard, but we expect it to be hard. If there were more clears, and there were six or seven in the third round, I would be disappointed with the competition. The same with Aachen – the course builder was criticized because there were no clears in the first round - but these are the hardest grand prixs in the world and they should be difficult in my opinion."
Source: Press release from Spruce Meadows Media Services // Pictures © Spruce Meadows Media Services
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